Politics

Big Issue founder John Bird appointed to the House of Lords

John Bird has been appointed as a crossbencher to the House of Lords, and will work for "social opportunity and social justice"

Big Issue founder John Bird

The Big Issue is delighted to announce that its founder, John Bird, has today been appointed to the House of Lords as an independent working Peer in recognition of his work as the social entrepreneur who launched The Big Issue magazine, The Big Issue Foundation and Big Issue Invest.

As a crossbencher John Bird will owe no allegiance to any political party and will be free to take part in legislative debates free of the constraints of party considerations and consensus politics.

John’s appointment by the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission is based on his life experience of the matters closest to the heart of The Big Issue: social deprivation, poverty, prison and how socially-based entrepreneurialism can make a real difference to lives.

In turning around his own life by becoming a trail-blazing social entrepreneur, John has inspired millions with The Big Issue’s mission

Nigel Kershaw, Chair of The Big Issue, said: “At a time when there is a certain amount of controversy around some appointments to the House of Lords, I believe that John is a Lord we can all applaud.

“It is a testament to his character and vision – and to the changing world we live in – that John becomes probably the first Peer ever appointed on a lifetime of experience which includes being raised as an orphan in a slum, illiteracy, sleeping rough and being jailed as a young offender.

“In spectacularly turning around his own life by becoming a trail-blazing social entrepreneur, John has inspired millions with The Big Issue’s mission to provide a hand up to thousands of people too often forgotten by society.”

John Bird said: “Mine will be a voice in the legislative process for the thousands of people The Big Issue has helped over the past 24 years and continues to help today through our philosophy of social entrepreneurialism based on self-help.

“I believe that one of the complexities of modern policy is that sometimes the best thinkers, like The Big Issue, are left outside the box. Yet if we are to have social opportunity and social justice for all, the thinking within the box needs to change.”

John Bird founded The Big Issue in 1991 as a street magazine to be sold by the homeless with half the proceeds of every sale going to the vendors, thus giving them the opportunity of earning money through their own efforts rather than depending on handouts.

Since then the magazine has put over £100 million directly into the pockets of homeless individuals, sold almost 200 million copies and has helped thousands of homeless people move themselves away from poverty.

In 1995 John Bird launched the Big Issue Foundation, a charity that supports Big Issue vendors in dealing with the issues that have caused their homelessness or have developed as a result of their living on the street.

He continues to serve on the Board of Directors for The Big Issue. In 2001, with The Big Issue chairman Nigel Kershaw, he launched Big Issue Invest the social investment arm of the Big Issue which provides finance to help develop social enterprises and charities.

John Bird continues to serve on the Board of Directors for The Big Issue and is a global speaker on motivational and social issues.

Baroness Morris of Yardley, who along with Baron Alton of Liverpool, nominated John Bird, said: “I’m delighted that John Bird has been appointed as a cross-bench member of the House of Lords. His work with members of our community who face considerable challenges and his successful track record in helping people to overcome them means that he will bring great experience and knowledge to the Lords.

“More than that, he has the determination and the tenacity to argue for what he believes to be the right way forward in key areas of social policy.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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